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After 45 years, Chase City town clerk prepares to turn in ledger

South Boston News
Retiring town clerk Cynthia Gordon
SoVaNow.com / August 07, 2019
For 45 years, Cynthia Gordon has served the public as clerk of Chase City Town Council and keeper of the town’s books. On Friday, Aug. 30, she will be turning in her pens and notepad and heading home, ending her career as the longest serving town clerk in Mecklenburg County and one of the longest serving in Virginia.

She recalled what it was like as a teenager, barely out of high school, taking on the task of keeping the books and records for the town. “It was scary and overwhelming,” she remembers.

Back then Chase City was still thriving, if not quite at the level of the town’s heyday in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. There were still downtown retailers, such as the Chase City Department Store, Roses, and Leggetts, a 5-and-10 store, three car dealerships and major manufacturers as well as a movie theater, grocery and drug stores and a smattering of other businesses.

Within a few days of starting work, Gordon was called on to take notes at her first town council meeting. She dutifully recorded the actions of Council in handwritten notes — a practice she continues today — before typing her notes on an electric typewriter. This was before the days of the desktop computer. She credits then-mayor Stuart Elam and her aunt Hilda Reese, who at that time was the town treasurer, with helping her through the first weeks.

Over time, Gordon has become more than town clerk — she is also the town’s institutional memory. After all, she’s outlasted and helped train five town treasurers (Sylvia Ligon, Tammy Boswell, Rickey Reese, Jane Petersen and Chris Early) and worked under five town managers. Assuming Council members approve her replacement before Aug. 30, Gordon will also train that person.

She was also there to make the transition in the town’s record-keeping from manual to electronic records.

She’s attended nearly every town council meeting since first stepping into the role, learning to “keep up with the banter” among Council members while recording the important decisions and points of discussion at their meetings. More than once, she’s been called on to explain a prior vote or procedural step or another town matter.

Like most town clerks, Gordon possesses strong record-keeping and organizational skills, though she is hesitant to discuss these traits, writing them off as just one more function of her job. It is Virginia Petersen, the current town treasurer who brags about Gordon: “She’s been a joy to work with and is taking away a wealth of knowledge when she leaves.”

Gordon’s easy-going manner has served her well over the years, especially when dealing with residents who may be disgruntled for one reason or another and who come to her to air their grievances. She’s even had to weather some contentious years when the members of town council were not as collegial as they are today. What served her best, even during the most heated moments, she says, was her ability to stay calm. Her advice to her successor is “never let your customers push you over the edge.”

She likes to call everyone who comes to the office by name, remembering who they’re related to, and the names of their children and grandchildren, if any. It makes for a more welcoming experience, and one she says she’ll miss.

Gordon has become so adept at her job that when asked to describe a typical day, she’ll first tell you “there’s not much to it.” She begins each day by balancing her cash drawer, then prepares the town deposit, greets and helps customers, and takes in payments for town services. Ahead of town council meetings, she’ll prepare the agenda and the informational packets for the mayor and each member of town council.

In 2013 she added another job to her busy day. Gordon agreed to serve as town council’s representative on the Chase City Planning Commission. She says this role has given her some of her favorite moments, approving new businesses in this once-thriving town and delving into Chase City’s historical records.

Even if she isn’t working for council, Gordon said she might like to continue serving on the Planning Commission, though she knows her role cannot be as the town’s representative. She would like to be part of Chase City’s resurgence with businesses and people returning to Main Street.

However, for at least the first month after she retires, Gordon says she will be content to relax at home and spend time with her grandchildren.

As she thinks about her final days serving at Town Hall, Gordon says she will miss the office camaraderie and the chance to see the people who regularly visit. She has one regret: that over the course of 45 years, she’s never heard anyone say “thank you” to her or the other people who spend every day working for the residents of Chase City.



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